Going to the outskirts
Using two bold and surprising images, Jesus lets us know what to follow him means and what he expects from his followers. They must not live thinking always of their own interests, their own prestige or their own power. Although they are a small group in the vast Roman Empire, they have to be the “salt” that the earth needs and the “light” that should be in the world.
“You are the salt of the earth.” The simple people of Galilee spontaneously grasp Jesus’ language. Everyone knows that salt is used, above all, to give flavor to food and to keep it from spoiling. In the same way, Jesus’ disciples must contribute to people savoring life without succumbing to corruption.
“You are the light of the world.” Without the sun’s light, the world stays dark and we will not be able to find our bearings nor can we enjoy life with darkness surrounding us. Jesus’ disciples can be bearers of the light that we need to have a point of reference, to understand deeply the ultimate meaning of life and to walk with hope.
Both metaphors are in agreement with regard to something very important. If salt is left in a receptacle, it is of no use whatsoever. Only when it comes into contact with food and is dissolved in it, can salt give flavor to what we eat. The same thing happens with light. If it is enclosed and hidden, it cannot enlighten anyone. Only when it is placed where there is darkness can it illuminate and provide bearing. A Church isolated from the world can be neither salt nor light.
Pope Francis has seen that the Church today lives locked up within itself, paralyzed by fears, and too far removed from problems and sufferings to be able to give flavor to modern life and offer the true light of the Gospel. The Pope has responded quickly: “We have to go to the outskirts.”
The Pope insists over and over: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”
Francis’ call is addressed to all Christians: “We ‘cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings’.” “The Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others.” The Pope wants to introduce into the Church what he calls “the culture of encounter”. He’s convinced that “the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm … hearts ….”
José Antonio Pagola
February 9, 2014
5 Ordinary Time (A)
Matthew 5, 13-16